My First Months Working at Valamis
Moving to a new city is a challenge, starting a new job at a new company is a challenge, doing both simultaneously is not as challenging as it could be when your company's onboarding is efficient. This is my first time being exposed to a digital onboarding solution, as opposed to traditional onboarding with a supervisor logging me into all the networks with all the right passwords, lecture-like training, and the sure feeling I must not have retained some information or I am missing something.
I moved from San Diego, California to Boston, Massachusetts in August. I have worked in several different organizations of varying sizes, structures, missions, locations in different roles and industries. I have worked, as Ben Horowitz (renowned investor in companies like Facebook, Groupon, Airbnb, GitHub, Lyft, Medium, Pinterest, Skype, Slack, and Twitter...) puts it, for Peacetime CEOs and Wartime CEOs. Horowitz accurately defined the difference between a good organization and a poor organization in his book, The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building A Business When There Are No Easy Answers.
You know within a month if you are in a good organization or a bad organization
"In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling."
"In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how [messed] up their situation is, management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem."
Within one month at a company, it is easy to discern whether you are in a good organization or a poor one based on the onboarding process.
Onboarding begins with the interview
The onboarding process starts during the interview process; setting realistic expectations. During the interview process, the Valamis team delineated my future international, digital workplace. I would be working in a small office in the US, remotely communicating with the marketing team stationed all over Europe and the Marketing Manager located at the Valamis headquarters in Finland.
My first week at Valamis
In stark contrast from San Diego, I arrived at work my first day after not sitting in traffic, but rather zooming to work while listening to a podcast on the 'T' (the subway) and mindfully paying attention to each stop. I walked into the Valamis building and made my way to the office. There I met Valamis Co-Founder, President of Valamis Inc, Mika Kuikka. He gave me a tour of the building and then rather than inundate me with information and meetings, he gave me a laptop and credentials to log in to Valamis LXP, Valamis' core product, a Learning Experience Platform.
I logged into Valamis and entered into a totally unique onboarding experience. Valamis is a social network, an online learning platform, and compliance training program, all rolled into one. The platform, tasks, and information I received were entirely personalized to fit my role and stage at the company. As a new employee, I was given a set of "ArcuTasks" that outlined a set of tasks/courses that I could do at my own pace, anytime and anywhere.
In addition to being a learning experience platform, Valamis implements new features based on customer requests and suggestions. Within my short time at Valamis, a new version of Valamis has been released which includes the addition of a chatbot named ValBo. ValBo further aids in the quick accessibility of information for learners using Valamis by helping find courses and other information relevant to the learner.
Some of the tasks I was assigned included logging into our company Slack, a messaging platform to communicate with my team members abroad and send Mika gifs of Hodor from across the office. It was in our slack ‘Marketing Channel' that I met my team members from all over the world and my supervisor gave me a concise set of goals and responsibilities for Valamis. I am aware of how my responsibilities or lack of fulfilling my responsibilities can impact the company and having an elucidated purpose in an organization is one major key to employee engagement. By learning with Valamis at my own pace, I felt more confident in the workplace, quicker. Instead of asking where passwords are located, what platforms we use and for what, what projects I need to prioritize, I had all the information gathered on one platform. I had fewer questions and more time to come up with new ideas. One of which, was this blog.
Another key to engaging employees is to support and inspire ideas and creativity. Valamis has several, unbureaucratic methods for spurring creativity, such as a communal Trello board where you can post new product feature ideas for Valamis, different slack groups, and development workshops. LinkedIn's guide, Creating a Culture of Learning in 6 Steps by Britt Andreatta, Ph.D. and Chief Learning Officer at Lynda suggests that enhanced creativity and innovation drives individual and team success. Research on vulnerability and shame shows that risk-taking invites valuable lessons that come from failure.
Onboarding is ongoing
Not only should employers inspire creativity, but they should encourage continued employee development. By motivating employees to continue their personal and professional development, you are building a workforce that can adapt new skills that will strengthen the organization and boost productivity. Valamis has numerous courses I can take at any time, even if I want to do it while taking the subway home from work.
Lastly, flexibility is crucial to the onboarding process. Flexibility to learn when you want but also the flexibility to rest when you need. Burnout is a very real fate for people that don't recuperate in the way they need in order to come back to work, eager to work. Valamis' HR department has built a flawless work culture that focuses heavily on the social, physical and psychological well-being of employees. Maria Vihtkari, Chief Human Resources Officer at Valamis, has implemented a work culture with these three aspects of well-being in mind. Vihtkari explained, "When an employee feels good socially, physically and psychologically, employees get better results and it leads Valamis to better results. Clear objectives and communication coupled with compassion are all ways to improve employee well-being."
Within my first month, I saw results from an internal study that illustrated employee recovery rate, and suggestions for improvement. It wasn't until I was sick one morning that I realized how important flexibility is. I let my peers know that I was sick to overcompensate for any brain-fog I may have during our Skype meeting. In my past experience, I have gone to work sick out of fear. Instead, I was instantly met with empathetic responses from my superiors and reassurance that it was ok to rest. I shut down my laptop and slept the entire day and came back to work the next day, ready to go. Not only did this flexibility allow me to recuperate, but it also instilled in me an emotional commitment to my new workplace. Some of the greatest teams have an emotional commitment to their purpose within but also to their team.
Ben Horowitz' words ring true:
"Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves."